REVIEW: A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin

Last Updated on February 12, 2024

A Feast for Crows is the fourth and most polarizing volume in George R.R. Martin’s epic grimdark series, A Song of Ice and Fire, which began with A Game of Thrones and continued with the excellent A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords. Although A Feast for Crows falls short of these three previous volumes, there is still a lot to love here, particularly in the detailed psychological portraits painted of Cersei and Jaime Lannister.

Cover of A Feast for CrowsOn the negative side, several of the main characters from the first three books are simply not present in A Feast for Crows. Daenerys Targaryen, Jon Snow, and Tyrion Lannister are all sorely missing from this fourth volume. As the most compellingly drawn character in the series, Tyrion’s absence is particularly regrettable.

Instead, A Feast for Crows grants point-of-view status to a cadre of side characters who aren’t even provided names in their chapter headings. These chapters are given titles such as “The Prophet,” “The Captain of the Guard,” and “The Soiled Knight.” With such a large cast of characters already in A Song of Ice and Fire, it is difficult to justify the page space devoted to these new additions. It’s also frustrating for readers who just want to find out what happens to the main dramatis personae of the series. Unfortunately, the chapters devoted to these side characters mostly serve to slow down the main plot and interrupt the flow of the story. Despite its slow start, A Feast for Crows picks up the pace later in the book and has an especially strong finish.

Cersei Lannister steals the show as a first-time point-of-view character in A Feast for Crows. George R.R. Martin thoroughly immerses us in Cersei’s twisted mind as she descends deeper into jealousy, paranoia, and hysteria. Martin’s analysis of Cersei’s psychology is superb and, frankly, worth the entire book.

The relationship between Cersei and her brother Jaime is damaged beyond repair in A Feast for Crows. Jaime is obsessed with Cersei’s many infidelities, unable to force the list of her illicit lovers out of his mind. Ever the loyal knight, Jaime is also trying to find a new purpose for himself after losing his sword-wielding hand in the previous book. The phantom sensations that Jaime feels from his missing hand brought me chills.

Brienne of Tarth is another favorite character in A Feast for Crows. After spending A Storm of Swords guiding Jaime back to the Lannisters, Brienne now sets off in search of the missing Sansa Stark. The highlight of Brienne’s story occurs when she meets Lady Stoneheart, the zombified Catelyn Stark who is hellbent on revenge against those who betrayed her at the Red Wedding massacre in the previous book. I’m surprised that Lady Stoneheart was left out of the HBO series, as she is such a haunting and menacing presence in A Feast for Crows.

The Stark sisters, Sansa and Arya, are given three chapters each. Littlefinger has rescued Sansa from the Lannisters and rechristened her as Alayne Stone, pretending to be his illegitimate daughter. Littlefinger is captivated by how much Sansa looks like her mother, Catelyn, for whom he has a longstanding infatuation. Littlefinger’s interactions with Sansa alternate between creepiness and education in the fine art of political manipulation.

Meanwhile, Arya continues her aimless wandering, this time sailing to the foreign city of Braavos, where she adopts yet another pseudonym. Arya’s storyline ends on a cliffhanger, so I’m excited to see what happens next.

Despite its flaws, A Feast for Crows is still a great book. Although it falls short of its predecessors, the chapters devoted to Cersei, Jaime, and Brienne are all outstanding, and it also carries the story forward for Sansa and Arya. If readers can forgive the unnecessary diversions from the side characters, there is still much to love here.

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John Mauro

John Mauro

John Mauro lives in a world of glass amongst the hills of central Pennsylvania. When not indulging in his passion for literature or enjoying time with family, John is training the next generation of materials scientists at Penn State University, where he teaches glass science and materials kinetics. John also loves cooking international cuisine and kayaking the beautiful Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.